(NaturalNews) People who eat smaller, more frequent meals have lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and healthier blood sugar than people who eat fewer, larger meals, according to a study conducted by researchers from the US Agricultural Research Service Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center and the National Institute on Aging Intramural Research Program.
Researchers had a small group of volunteers consume either one meal per day or three meals per day for eight weeks, then had them switch to the other diet for another eight weeks. The total calories consumed per day were the same in the one-meal and the three-meal groups.
When eating only one high-calorie meal per day, participants lost small amounts of weight and body mass. At the same time, however, they underwent significant increases in both total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels and blood pressure. They had higher morning fasting and all-day blood sugar levels, longer-lasting blood sugar increases after eating, and a delayed response to the sugar-regulating hormone insulin. All of these blood sugar disruptions can be considered precursors to diabetes.
The new research follows a 2005 study showing that eating larger portion sizes does not correspond to feeling more full. Researchers from the Penn State University Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior found that over time, people who were served larger portions ended up eating more food, rather than less.
"Living in the age of supersize meals and 'huge food,' our study shows that there is a great need for people to be more aware of what and how much food they are served," said laboratory director Barbara Rolls.
In response to growing concern over the health effects of the large portion sizes that have become increasingly popular in recent decades, particularly in the United States, the Grocery Manufacturers Association has called on its members to implement standardized portion sizes for all their packaged foods.